Life is filled with moments. There are moments that bring so much joy to our being that just a fleeting thought of them brings a smile to our face. There are moments too that have left scars so deep that we wince at their recollection. All of these moments contributed in some way to who we are today. ‘Building bridges of understanding across the barriers that separate people’ is the call-to-action that has brought thousands of people around the world to join Friendship Force. The stories from our FF experiences continue to prove that the moments we create, the moments we embrace, change us. But change can only happen when we set our own preconceived ideas and judgements aside in order to be fully present in the moment.
While we wait for a vaccine, for international flights to resume, for our next Journey to take place, and to hear from our news and leaders what will happen next – a bigger journey continues, filled with moments that will define us. Right now is one of those moments.
The protests taking place in the United States – and indeed around the world – are a sobering reminder about why our organization remains relevant, and they are proof that you don’t need to get on an airplane to be changed by an experience. For many of us in the US, teaching our children or our grandchildren about institutional racism, health, and income disparities – and the long road ahead for our country to heal from its racist past – is a choice each of us must make. Unseating generations of prejudice, bigotry, and discrimination is a daily practice of making a conscious decision to be better today than we were yesterday.
For Friendship Force members, we know all too well the power of embracing the diversity that exists in the world. We understand that in order to expand our world view and build connections with countries and cultures different from our own, we may feel uncomfortable when faced with something new. But we embrace the discomfort, because we know in the end we will be better for it. However, our mission doesn’t start when we go through customs at the airport; it starts as soon as we open our eyes in the morning. We make a conscious decision to open our minds and our hearts so that we can better understand the world around us and allow that understanding to change us.
As a member of the Friendship Force, I recognize that I can make a difference. I recognize that I have a mission. That mission is to be a friend to the people of the world. As I embark upon this adventure, I know that others will be watching me. I know that through my example to my fellow citizens and the people of other countries, the cause of friendship and peace can be furthered. I CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE.
This moment in the United States is about a long unresolved undercurrent of institutional racism, sparked by the unnecessary death of George Floyd. Although what we see on the news and in cities around the world is a collective response, it is an individual choice to change the world around us. This is what Friendship Force, at its core, is about. I challenge each of us to look for ways within our own communities and countries where the mission of Friendship Force can further humanity.
Stay safe, stay healthy, and just as importantly, stay committed to the bigger journey and embrace this moment.